Forget Multitasking If You Want to Get More Done

by Beth Rifkin

2 min read

If you often juggle multiple tasks at a time because you want to get more done in the limited time you have, you may be going about it the wrong way the entire time. Multitasking doesn’t allow you to get more done; in fact, it may affect your work negatively.

You’re Less Efficient

If you think your brain can perform multiple tasks simultaneously, think again. When you multitask, you’re actually switching your focus from one task to another quickly. To switch from one task to another, you stop what you’re doing while your brain stores information about the current task in its temporary memory to free up some space for the new task. You may not have noticed, but this constant switching of tasks costs time and slows you down. This is particularly the case when the two tasks are similar. For example, speaking on the phone and writing an email involve communications. It is nearly impossible to do both at the same time, because one task interferes with the other.

You Become More Error-Prone

When you multitask, you tend to make more mistakes and bad decisions. As you jump from one task to the next, you can’t reach the state of mind that allows you to perform critical thinking and creative problem solving. For example, when you talk on the phone and drive at the same time, you’re distracted from the road condition and pretty much drive on autopilot. When you arrive at your destination, you may wonder how you get there because you don’t remember making turns and stopping at traffic lights. Many avoidable car accidents are caused by distracted driving.

You Feel More Stress

The human brain isn’t built to multitask. When you force it to switch between tasks constantly, you stress out your brain and tire yourself out quickly, leaving you feeling completely drained mentally. For example, when you’re working on an important task and a coworker keeps sending you messages asking about another project, your brain tries to handle both attention-competing tasks by staying in high alert mode. When this happens, your stress level skyrockets through the roof, and your body releases more cortisol into your bloodstream, which suppresses your immune system and causes you to get sick easily.

How to Avoid Multitasking

One way to focus on one thing at a time is to prioritize your tasks at the beginning of each day. By knowing what you need to do on that day and in which order, you can focus on one task until it’s done before you jump to the next. If you feel that your plate is too full, consider delegating some of your tasks to your employees so that you can focus on those that are important to you. Don’t fall into the trap of multitasking. Focus on one thing at a time, and you’ll be surprised how much more you can get done.

References & Resources

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